School psychology is a relatively unknown field, and is certainly not often talked about in the popular media. There are T.V. shows, movies, and mini-series about teachers, principals, doctors, clinical psychologists, police officers, lawyers, politicians, chefs, models, and even tornado-chasers (think Twister). Social workers make frequent appearances in the media (portrayed in both negative and positive lights); for better or worse I have yet to see a school psychologist in action in film or on T.V.
However, I recently saw a wonderful film, which I viewed as the closest thing there is to a school-psychology movie. Mary and Max is a claymation feature about two lonely outcasts who become pen pals by chance, and communicate across oceans through hand-written letters and lovingly prepared packages.
At one point, Max writes to Mary about his newly discovered condition – Asperger’s syndrome. His description is well-illustrated (thanks to the wonders of intricate clay forms), easy to understand, comprehensive, and funny.
You can see the clip here:
The ultimate lesson of the film is that we as humans have many quirks– to be truly happy with who we are, we must accept these eccentricities, and find friends who accept us as we are. Max sums it up when he tells Mary, “Dr. Bernard Hazelhof said if I was on a desert island, then I would have to get used to my own company – just me and the coconuts. He said I would have to accept myself, my warts and all, and that we don’t get to choose our warts. They are part of us and we have to live with them. We can, however, choose our friends, and I am glad I have chosen you.”
And this in essence, is the work of school psychologists. To work with children and adolescents in an encouraging way, so that they and their teachers can accept, account for, and adapt to their differences – whether they be cognitive, physical, emotional, social, or medical. School psychologists strive to help students with a spectrum of diverse traits, needs, interests, and personalities be successful in school and in their social environments – hopefully with the company of at least one good friend along the way. Movie night, anyone?